New companies face tough task overcoming pandemic, recession

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Amy and Cody Morgan pose in their new warehouse, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Cypress, Texas. The couple, who lost their jobs as corporate executives during the coronavirus pandemic, decided to start a pool servicing company, Pit Stop Pools. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

NEW YORK – Julie Campbell had to rethink her new wallpaper business before she could sell her first sheet.

Campbell launched Pasted Paper in February, but soon after, the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the trade shows where she expected to introduce her wallpaper to prospective retail customers. Suddenly, the $30,000 she’d invested in creating the wallpaper was at risk, dependent on her transforming the company to sell directly to consumers.

To save Pasted Paper, Campbell learned online selling and marketing — skills not immediately in her wheelhouse.

“I had so much inventory and I needed to sell it. I was forced to figure this out,” Campbell says.

A recession amid a pandemic may seem like the worst time to start a business. Despite millions of loans and grants from federal and state governments, it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of companies have already failed since the virus outbreak began.

Yet, from people like Campbell, who’d invested too much money to turn back, to others who lost their jobs and saw starting their own company as the best path forward, thousands of Americans have opted to take the plunge. A few have even folded one business and quickly launched another better suited for the “new normal” of the pandemic.

Owners of all these fledgling companies face a tough road as they try to bring in customers and thrive. While nearly 80% of startup companies had survived their first year in 2019, according to research by the Kauffman Foundation, those businesses had the benefit of launching in a strong economy.

Prosperity is tougher in a downturn — consumers and businesses spend less and new ventures tend to have large startup costs and low revenue. U.S. gross domestic product plunged by nearly a third from April through July, and there are still more than 13 million people unemployed.